The 1st of September, 1939 signaled the start of World War II, when the Germans attacked Poland. One of their first actions was to gather Jews in ghettos.
The Nazis began building concentration camps in order to launch “Generalplan Ost,” an ethnic cleansing of Jews, Poles, Romani people, homosexuals, and people with disabilities.
The year 1933 saw the building of the first concentration camp, where political prisoners were placed. Between 1937 and 1939, the construction of camps was scaled up, and by the end of 1945, there were a total of 730 concentration camps.
Prisoners were used as an industrial workforce, which was of great use to the Germans during the war. The goal was to make the Jews extinct in Europe.
Auschwitz consisted of three parts, with Auschwitz II-Birkenbau being a pure death camp. During World War II, 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz. Of thoses, 1.1 million were murdered, a million of them Jews.
When my grandmother came to Sweden on the White Buses, she weighed only 66 pounds. The buses were organized by a Swedish count named Folke Bernadotte who wanted to save Scandinavian war prisoners during the last part of the war.
The buses were painted with red crosses in order to avoid attacks.
Between 15,000 and 30,000 people escaped, thanks to the buses. Most of them were Scandinavian, but in the final weeks of the war, the administration broke down and others were able to use the buses, as well.
Among the rescued, around 4,000 were Jews.
My uncle Moses was born in 1932. From the time he was 5 years old, he worked in a glass factory by the order of the SS (Schutzstaffel). The factory was near the SS headquarters in the Polish city of Piotrków, where Moses was born. The children were considered good workers since their tiny hands could polish glass in places where adult hands were too big and clumsy.
For three years, Moses worked in the factory before he and his mother, Miriam, were sent to the concentration camp in Ravensbrük.
My grandfather was sent to the Buschenwald concentration camp. Miriam was murdered, and Moses was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. There, he was taken care of by a woman who later was given the name “The Angel of Bergen-Belsen,” for saving so many orphans.
By the end of the war, Moses was sent to Sweden.
After the war, my grandfather Saoul searched for over a year before discovering that some children had been brought to Sweden. He went there and managed to find his son.
Saoul and my grandmother Rosa met in Sweden. Both of their parents had been killed, and six of my grandmother’s seven siblings had been murdered. My grandfather’s first wife and all six of his siblings were all killed.
Today, few of those who survived the Holocaust are still with us. Therefore, it’s important that we remember their stories and that we keep sharing them so that history never repeats itself.
Here are the terrible images that a drone caught on tape as it flew over Auschwitz last year: